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Title: Living with loss : an enquiry into the expression of grief and mourning in contemporary art practice
Author: Horn, Sheridan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 5882
Awarding Body: Birmingham City University
Current Institution: Birmingham City University
Date of Award: 2018
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In a secular society, religion no longer dictates the manner in which death and dying is rationalized, nor sets the precedence for observances of grief; how individuals grieve has changed. This thesis formulates two central hypotheses: that a new phenomenon is emerging of the contemporary cenotaph in art, erected either as physical manifestations or digitally on the Internet; that encapsulated within these cenotaphs is a wealth of information concerning the deceased and aspects of artists' unique grieving processes - the symptoms of loss and trauma are actualized in their work. Artists are reconfiguring religious forms of commemoration and producing secular variants. The aims of this research are threefold: to investigate ways in which artists are forging new approaches to the portrayal of grief and mourning; to explore how these have arisen in an increasingly secular society; to explore through my own practice in response to loss, how art might assume new forms and meanings in a contemporary context. The research aims are investigated through interdisciplinary means including practice-led research, a corpus of wide-ranging artists and artworks, a new methodological approach and theoretical discourses in grief and mourning. The core artists studied are Hannah Wilke, Jo Spence, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Zoe Leonard and Sheridan Horn. Wilke's and Spence's work is reviewed as the documentation of grief and mourning rather than as feminist polemic. Practice-led research consists of three sculptural expositions. Here-and-Now; Then-and-There was produced to explore how loss registers both overtly and covertly in practitioners' work. It revealed artists embodying experience in materialized forms by mimicking the symptoms of loss, grief and trauma. D(e)ad comprised organic matter 'performed' by continuously changing state, actualizing grieving processes. This work was compared to the cenotaphs by Gonzalez-Torres and Leonard and the historical vanitas, itself currently re-emerging as contemporary cenotaph. Grief Shadow represented the dynamic process of grief and mourning in a static work rather than through changes of state. Counterpoint references include the digital cenotaphs of Briony Campbell's The Dad Project (2009) and the new social phenomenon of extreme embalming. In a society without customary guidelines for grief and mourning, cenotaphs in art are crucial in offering alternative forms of discursive and commemorative practice.
Supervisor: Rogers, Henry ; Cheeseman, David ; Newbury, Darren ; Burrows, David ; Whipps, Stuart Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: C800 Psychology ; W100 Fine Art